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There is a long tradition of taking something that tastes nice and thinking, “Do you know what, what this really needs is alcohol.” and so that line of thought brings me to my first freebie review; a little 5 cl bottle of the Welsh toffee vodka ‘Toffoc’. Being an entirely professional reviewer it being free will naturally not affect affect my review - after all if price was a factor the £12 bottle of liquid petrol I reviewed the first time would have got a much better ride.

Anyway, one question that I have pondered often is what is the difference between schnapps and flavoured vodka? There’s three things really, I think, the first is alcohol content, schnapps tends to be lower alcohol than flavoured vodka, typically around 20%, whereas flavoured vodkas tend to be anything from 25% up to 50%. More booze for your money. The second thing is sugar, schnapps usually has a loads more of it than a flavoured vodka. Thirdly flavoured vodkas usually just involve dropping whatever flavour thing you want into the vodka and leaving it; schnapps is a bit more of an involved process. Historically schnapps was made from fruits rather than grains and was sweet - but these days the larger brands are just a neutral spirit filled full of sugar with added flavouring - bam - you’ve got a schnapps; so it’s a bit of a grey area at times.

Which brings me to the chilled glass of Toffoc.

Smells good. A soft smell of caramel, very distinct, not quite butterscotch levels of toffee flavouring but a mild smell of toffee not burnt. Not very viscous. But it tastes like liquid toffee, there’s utterly no burn on the lips, mouth, or throat and it was about a good four seconds before I felt the warmth from it in my belly. This is really smooth stuff. Rolling it around in the mouth the caramel taste is lovely, not cloying, the watery aspect of the drink makes it more refreshing than sticky. Delicious.

Frozen. Thankfully it’s not frozen solid, as lower level alcohols can freeze, I’ve even seen bottles of vodka freeze (Usually lower quality stuff) but this is still entirely liquid. No signs of crystals in the liquid either. The smell is a lot more muted, I can barely smell the toffee at all. However the freezer has brought out the warmth a lot more, that’s science folks! I can feel the heat from the alcohol sliding over my tongue, but there’s no burn at the back of the throat, or any burn down until once again I get a nice warmth in my belly. Nice. Freezing it has made it very slightly more viscous, but only a little.

Room temperature. Not so much scent as the chilled again, strange but there you go. The flavour is a little watery actually at room temperature, it’s a little disappointing after the chilled. The flavour is still nice, no burn at all; lips, tongue, nothing. Warm in the belly again, but needs some chill to pick it up a bit.

The Scores

Quality 8/10 - This is very smooth stuff, it’s helped considerably I suspect by being a lower alcohol content than most vodkas but it’s still a hefty 20% but there’s no heat at all. Really impressive for a flavoured vodka.

Taste 8/10 - If you like toffee, and I do, the chilled taste is just delicious. It’s warm in the belly and like drinking a really nice caramel sweet, really nice stuff. If you’ve not got a sweet tooth then you’ll probably still be alright, it’s not sickly at all. Good stuff.

Presentation 4/10 - It’s a pretty plain stick-on label on a plain bottle. Nothing fancy, a nice-ish logo and a little Welsh dragon.

Alcohol 20% by volume.

Cost £15 plus delivery. This is actually pretty hard to find, my local off-license told me that they’re looking to distribute further afield; but unless you’re in Wales where they distribute to ASDA and SPAR you’re out of luck as the shipping costs are pretty steep. If you’re in Wales, buy it and bring me a bottle back too. http://www.toffoc.com

Conclusion
This is a delicious flavoured vodka. If you like toffee and alcohol you’ll not go wrong with this at all; smooth and well flavoured this is a great find. Definitely best served chilled, the cold brings out the flavour and makes it that bit more delicious, warm it’s a bit of a pale shadow of it’s chilly self.

Date: 2014-12-16 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whiskeylover.livejournal.com
Nice review, and now I quite fancy some toffee vodka... However, I disagree on the schnapps assessment- at least in Germany, Schnaps is made without sugar, and tends to be around the 40% mark. That said, the difference seems to be that they are indeed distilled from fruit, and thus have a natural (fruity) flavour to them, while vodka, being generally distilled from grain (or potatoes) tends to be far more neutral. So "flavoured vodkas" have the flavouring added, while Schnaps is naturally flavoured.

Now, quite possibly none of that applies to whatever some anglophone marketing prat decided to call "schnapps", which is probably a vile concoction of sugar, cheap industrial alcohol and artificial flavourings...
Edited Date: 2014-12-16 05:32 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-12-16 05:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vodblog.livejournal.com
Traditional schnapps and what is sold as schnapps in the US/UK is massively different, from what I can tell; the booze-from-fruit approach has been abandoned for mass-distilled spirit dumped full of sugar and flavouring.

I think your key point (for real schanpps) that the flavouring is a natural part of the drink from it's creation is probably key; which might just make Citroc technically a schnapps, as it's a vodka made from grapes and you can actually (faintly) taste grapes in the flavour, it's a very fine vodka indeed. Another one to review :)

Date: 2014-12-18 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whiskeylover.livejournal.com
Hmm- having just checked the definition (well, ok- the German Wikipedia...), it appears that "Schnaps", technically, is simply another word for a (distilled) "spirit" (derived from low German).

That definition would mean that it includes vodka (or indeed brandy, whiskey, etc.), which is just a special kind of "Schnaps".

Colloquially, it tends to refer both to spirits in general and (more specifically) to distilled fruit stuff. At least in Germany.

As for "Ciroc" - haven't actually tried that yet, but to me, that would not really classify as a vodka. Wikipedia (again) seems to differ, having this to say: "Diageo claims that Cîroc is distinguished from other vodkas by the fact that they derive it from grapes, rather than using corn, sorghum, rye, wheat, or potatoes. Since they distill the product at 96% and do not age it, it fulfills the qualities of a vodka."

That said, the entry also points out that any "vodka" not made from the traditional ingredients of grain or potatoes, would have to have the ingredients listed: "The recent success of grape-based vodka in the United States prompted traditional vodka producers in the Vodka Belt countries of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden to campaign for EU legislation that will categorize only spirits made from grain or potatoes as "vodka". This proposition provoked heavy criticism from south European countries, which often distill used mash from wine-making into spirits; although higher quality mash is usually distilled into some variety of pomace brandy, lower-quality mash is better turned into neutral-flavored spirits instead. Any vodka not made from either grain or potatoes would have to display the products used in its production. This regulation entered into force in 2008."

Having had a look at the regulation, it makes for quite interesting reading. Basically it seems to set up a class system, categorising into "proper vodka" (only from grain or potatoes) and "other vodka", produced from other agricultural products.

The text relating to vodka (as found in Annex II of the regulation) is:

"15. Vodka
(a) Vodka is a spirit drink produced from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin obtained following fermentation with
yeast from either:
(i) potatoes and/or cereals, or
(ii) other agricultural raw materials,
distilled and/or rectified so that the organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials used and by-products
formed in fermentation are selectively reduced.
This process may be followed by redistillation and/or treatment with appropriate processing aids, including
treatment with activated charcoal, to give it special organoleptic characteristics.
Maximum levels of residue for ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin shall meet those laid down in Annex I, except
that the methanol content shall not exceed 10 grams per hectolitre of 100 % vol. alcohol.
(b) The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of vodka shall be 37,5 %.
(c) The only flavourings which may be added are natural flavouring compounds present in distillate obtained from
the fermented raw materials. In addition, the product may be given special organoleptic characteristics, other
than a predominant flavour.
(d) The description, presentation or labelling of vodka not produced exclusively from the raw material(s) listed in
paragraph (a)(i) shall bear the indication ‘produced from ...’, supplemented by the name of the raw material(s)
used to produce the ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. Labelling shall be in accordance with Article 13(2) of
Directive 2000/13/EC."


The full text of the directive can be found here: http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=178118

(it also clarifies, for example, that "flavoured vodkas", are not actually classified as vodkas...).

Date: 2014-12-19 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vodblog.livejournal.com
I think it was Ciroc's popularity that was the straw/camel for this "real vodka" argument that has started up; I don't really mind what it's made of as long as it's good - what does this mean that milk vodka is for instance? :)

I suspect we may end up with "traditional vodka" and "vodka" as classifications.

Date: 2015-01-06 09:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whiskeylover.livejournal.com
Well, at the moment we have "Vodka" and "Vodka made from..." as classifications.

I find it misleading, as it basically reduces the name to nothing more than a description of a generic spirit (is whisky a "barrel matured vodka"? Is Cognac a "barrel matured vodka made from grapes"?).

Date: 2015-01-08 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vodblog.livejournal.com
We can maybe agree every drink is "booze" or "non-booze" ;)

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